Old School Barbershop Provides Cuts and Camaraderie
“I get my hair cut every two weeks and wanted to try out Brandon’s new place,” he said. “I told my regular barber I’d try this place, and he gave me permission,” he quipped.
Whether that visit will now result in hairy competition for his business, he would not say except that he’s here for the first time. “Brandon and I are friends,” he explained.
Lanky, with his arms covered by tattoos, Brandon Ferguson, 31, has been barbering for eight years and just opened his own business after managing San Clemente buzz parlors catering to members of the military and the swankier Senior Barber in San Juan Capistrano.
He credited the owner of the latter Al Oliman, with turning him into a real pro. “Al mentored me and refined my cutting technique and style,” recalled Ferguson.
While he got his own hair cut at the Miller Barbershop in Costa Mesa, he had closely watched what proprietor Mark Miller was doing and, inspired by Miller’s apparent lifestyle and happy demeanor, decided to become a barber. He hung around the shop, cut hair in his garage and enrolled in classwork at Rancho Santiago College, he recalled.
Miller’s shop still garners glowing reviews on Yelp, whose customers describe requiring patience to get an appointment. Justin C. said, “Not only is this a great barber, it’s also a great local business…The decor is full of classic nostalgia – newspaper clippings, sports memorabilia and men’s magazines. The best part of the shop is that its one man’s business and passion….”
Ferguson modeled his retro-styled shop on his first impressions at Miller’s. The small space contains one old-fashioned barber chair with room for maybe one more, which he will need if a recent Friday is any indication. In a span of two hours, two boys and three men got their hair trimmed as two clients waited and at least three others made requests for same afternoon appointments.
Ferguson envisions an upstairs loft as a comfy lounge area, though his wife, Katie, 29, limits the man cave ambience somewhat by declaring cigars verboten.
A former public relations professional, she now freelances and also has been certified to teach yoga and spin. “My goal is to have my own fitness center nearby some day,” she said.
On a recent Friday afternoon, the stereo system pulsed with reggae music, though a television remained off. Clients had a choice between coffee, water or beer all accompanied by banter, mostly between clients and drop-ins.
Intent on his work, Ferguson is more mono-syllabic. “I want this to be a place where people can hang out, relax and have a good time,” he said. So far, he’s barbered between five and seven clients per day who come in for a $23 haircut or a $45 old-fashioned shave involving a straight razor and hot and cold towels.
What’s nowhere in sight are styling paraphernalia of the mid 1970s when the men’s hairstyling craze sent guys into beauty parlors or unisex chain shops. “We don’t even wash hair here,” explained Ferguson. There is a lone hairdryer outnumbered by clippers and combs.
Ferguson works with clippers and shears to fashion a “gentleman’s haircut,” the latest rage among males of all ages. Short on the sides and back and long on top, it’s a throwback to Don Draper in television’s “Mad Men” but nowhere as awkward as the do sported by actor Mark Harmon in “NCIS.”
Brothers Alex and Anthony Digenova of Laguna Beach may have been sent in by their mother but they know what they want. At their private school, the gentlemen’s cut is it.
Anthony, 14, specifies a No. 2 clipper setting, high on the sides with a thin line cut into the hair from temple to his ear on his left. Seeing the finished work, he just said “good,” vacating the chair for Alex, 16, whose style became a blond replica of his brother’s brown one.
Brandishing a credit card, the now former Fantastic Sam’s clients learned that the Den is a cash business but, nostalgia aside, Ferguson slid the card through an attachment on his smartphone. The kids paid $22 each. A regular cut costs $25 and a cut and shave combo goes for $65. Seniors get a discount, too.
“I am very particular about who touches my head,” said Kenny Pinedo, a five-year client of Ferguson. A boxing and wrestling aficionado and personal trainer, he described the barbershop as “contemporary meets nostalgic.”
Ferguson grew up in Laguna Niguel but considers himself still a part of the Laguna Beach surfing community. He cites, for example, how in 2009 the newly wed Fergusons sold everything they owned and embarked on a nine-month surfing and backpacking trip through Equador, Peru and Costa Rica.
Now, the couple is rooted in Laguna Beach. “I see barbering as an artistic profession that is more than just cutting hair,” said Ferguson. “It’s a way of communicating passion for what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
The Den Barbershop and Shave Parlor, 1854 S. Coast Hwy. Laguna Beach
949-715-7923. Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.